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Welcome to episode 15 of the Rethink HR podcast, brought to you by bettHR.

This is part three of our series about open enrollment (OE)/annual enrollment (AE), focused on how you can easily save money on your OE campaign and deliver a bigger ROI for your spend. In this episode, I share four strategies for you to consider to save big budget dollars.

First, stop using your benefit administrator’s communications package or upgrade option. The communication package is usually an upgrade so they are able to manage all of your enrollment information and messages in one place. But what you’re paying for is overpriced by 10-20X of what it actually costs to produce your messages, since they use this as a way to cover overhead. In addition, you’re likely getting an off-the-shelf communication solution that isn’t customized and isn’t created with communication best practices in mind.

Second, create a microsite. We explore what a microsite is and why it’s such a great communication option in episode 13 of the Rethink HR podcast. But in a very short time frame with little investment, you can create an external home for all things OE (or Total Rewards). This becomes a known and branded location for your employees, and it’s accessible from any device, from any location.

Third, explore new ways to replace the high-cost decision-making tools such as the claim data options, the benefits walkthrough guide, and the virtual benefits fair. You can create similar and maybe even more effective solutions at a fraction of the cost. And if you combine these with a microsite, you can save even more!

And finally, refresh your communication strategy. At a high-level, incorporate new communication channels and frequency, and make sure each message has only one call to action.

Listen in, to learn more!

In This Episode

  • This is the third podcast in a series all about open enrollment—and how to save big budget dollars while still improving the employee experience.
  • Four specific tactics to uncover big savings.
  • The benefits of better communication and reinvesting your benefits dollars to see a bigger ROI


Trying to save budget dollars? Look at your open enrollment spend, and increase your ROI and experience with these strategies on this week's RethinkHR podcast episode! #humanresources #hr #employees #benefits #shrm Click To Tweet

(00:00): More important in this instance is that you are overpaying by at least 10 to 20 X of what those communications actually would cost you by doing it in house or hiring a boutique firm to do it for you. I'm Melissa Anzman, HR practitioner turned CEO of a thriving employee experience company, but it wasn't all that long ago that I worked as an HR business partner responsible for increasing employee engagement at companies nationwide. And I struggled to move the needle even after trying everything under the sun, fast forward, past many fail tactics and lessons learned. And you'll see how I've been able to crack the code and replicated at companies of all sizes for creating true engagement and doing HR work that matters work that changes the lives of leaders, HR professionals, and employees. By focusing on the employee experience, I created the rethink HR podcast to give you actionable step by step strategies to help you make an impact.

(01:03): If you're an HR leader or one on the rise, who's looking to stop spinning your wheels, doing the same tired activities that aren't driving results, or you want to have a career. You love your in the right place let's get started. So today I'm continuing the series all about open enrollment or annual enrollment, whichever one you say. So it's either O E or H depending on the company that you work at, but we're going to dive deep about OE again, because I got some questions after the last episode, if you haven't done. So check out episodes 13 and 14, all about OE as well about this is great, but how do I improve the OE experience on a budget? Now? Here's the thing. Budgets are tight. I get you. I feel you, they always are, but especially right now, you're probably reevaluating your overall benefits spend, particularly as you're planning out O E and you may be wondering, what can you let go of?

(02:07): What can you reinvest? Which one is going to get the biggest ROI and help your employees make better decisions. So, today I'm going to share a few different ways that you can improve the OE experience, well saving a ton of money, and it's actually a lot easier than you think. So, part of the reason why OE costs so much is that we are reliant on our big vendors, our big benefit administrators in order to help us make O E happen. And there are some things that they are super great at. And I would say totally worth the investment, which is the actual administration part of OE. So keep your benefit administrator to actually have your employees in role or elect or de select themselves from benefits, have them be the administrator, but for everything else, take away that business. So what I mean by that is a lot of people buy into a benefit administrators package, where they're going to do the administration.

(03:19): So they have an enrollment website and all the backend that goes into enrolling your employees, which is really complicated. And I highly recommend having one for it, but then they also sell you a communications package. So you don't have to worry about it. And it's usually an off the shelf solution that isn't very helpful to your employees, and it leaves them, your employees with a lot of questions, because it's an off the shelf thing, or it's not very customized, or it's a look and feel that's applied across the company. But more importantly, which I can't believe I'm saying that because the results for communications is super important, but more important in this instance is that you are overpaying by at least 10 to 20 X of what those communications actually would cost you by doing it in house or hiring a boutique firm to do it for you.

(04:14): So stop doing those packages, stop investing in your benefit, administrators, communication packages. Now, how do I know? Because I used to work at one actually several, and I've seen what the app cost is, and the reason why the prices are so inflated for the communications in particular is that is something that they are able to increase the price to then pay for all of the non-income generating staff that they have on to support your account. So for them, it is a upsell it's an add on that makes them money to spread across all the other places that they may be losing money. And so that cost is significant. So you'll see things from them. If you are able to get a breakdown, which sometimes you're not, but you'll see costs from them. You know, well, above, like I have seen annual budgets for communication campaigns for E or O E upwards of 300, 400, $500,000 just for the communications.

(05:22): When in fact, if you went to a boutique, it would probably be under 200 K and you get more customized results, better communications and more attention. So, and experts, by the way, because the other thing to just pull the curtain back on most benefit administration companies do have some communication experts on hand, but they value a lot more the knowledge, the transactional knowledge about benefits. And so your quote, unquote communication consultant or advisor, or what have, you may not have grown up in learning how to actually use and utilize communications in the same way that let's say a boutique firm would. So using your benefit, administrators, communication packages is one of the least ideal ways to spend your benefit dollars. And it's going to bring you the littlest ROI for that spent. So stop doing that right now. And this is something, bring up to your CHRs, bring up to your VP of benefits and actually reach out to your benefit administrator and say, I don't want this package, how much money are you going to save me?

(06:38): And either do an RFP for small boutiques, which really you don't need to do an RFP for this, but you can also go and explore a few and see how they communicate, what they would pitch you, what the cost would be in all of that. So get some actual information. This is one of those things that you don't know what you don't know. And so now, you know, so stop utilizing their off the shelf program just to make it one place to make it quote unquote, easier for you. It is wasting a lot of your money. Now, the second way that you can save money on your own experience is to create a microsite. Now you may be saying, I have to invest in another tool. Yes, but again, if you go with a boutique firm or if you go with somebody like better, your investment is low five figures, not high five, six figures that your benefit administrator's going to quote you and you get all the things that you need.

(07:37): So a microsite real quick is a benefits landing page or total rewards. It's a website it's accessible on any device. There's no SSO. There's no need to log in. You don't have to be onsite at your company. Your employees can access it where they want learn everything that they want about your benefits or total rewards. And it's completely customized for all of your information, programs, benefits, et cetera. The other cool thing about a microsite is yes, it's super accessible, which is really important right now. And it, that means that your employees can engage their partners or family members, or what have you at home in making benefits decisions, which is awesome. But also you can add your microsite as the place to go. It becomes a known URL, the known home for your benefits or total rewards and your employees learn that branding and go there for information and questions.

(08:40): First, the other cool thing is you can put everything under the sun about your benefits there, and really think through the employee experience of how these things work together. What is the process flow when they land into your microsite, what we want them to do know or learn. And we change that through out the OE process in order to ensure that they're getting to the administration page. So microsites are extremely helpful. The ROI that I've seen is incredible. The feedback we get from employees is off the charts. They're so happy. They understand things. They know where to go. And for HR professionals, you are not getting those crazy questions that you're getting right now over and over again, because people know where to go. They know what to expect there. They understand it. They trust it there's even a bot there, maybe that has them answer all the FAQ.

(09:40): What have you. So a microsite is definitely something to invest in. It should not take more than six to eight weeks to get it up. I, again, your benefit administrator is going to say, it takes six to eight months. They are wrong. They are slow, stop doing that. Okay. So think about a microsite and really understand that that is going to save you a ton of money. Because when I get to number three, you're going to be able to host everything in that place too. So the third thing that you can do to save money for OE, or at least experience it on a budget is I want you to consider alternatives to some of the larger decision making tools. Now, these could be the tools that you're thinking about of like a Truven health or an IBM Watson tool, where the employee's able to put in their information and it pops out, you know, the typical average spends and which plan makes more sense.

(10:42): Or even if it just use historical claims data, those are great tools. I really, really do love them. And I recommend them. Your utilization is probably pretty low. That's just how I've seen it across the board, but they are very expensive. And I want you to know that there's other options out there. The same can be said on other like large spend enrollment tools, like a Alex jelly vision or an On24 again, good products, but not ones that I think you need to invest six figures in which both of them cost. So instead, I want you to consider how to bring these things slightly differently into, in house solutions or on your microsite. So the thing that you can do instead of a decision making tool, you can really think things through like an employee scenario or modeling. So what you would do there is you would look across your claims data and, you know, pick out a diverse set of employees and you know who they are, how old they are, family members, which plan they're in average span, all those things.

(11:54): And I want you to create different stories or scenarios around their experience. So you talk a little bit about them, how they leverage and use their own health insurance, and which plan is right for them. And you can even do a grid calculation of each plan's cost and spend so that employees can see across the board almost the same as what they would with a big decision making skill, a tool, what would be the best medical plan option for them. So that's a really great way that you can do that. It's personalized. You can use real employees should, should they want to HIPAA rules make it weird. So I always recommend that you sort of don't use real employee information. You use a conglomerate, a conglomerate, or you average some things out and do it that way, but you're telling a story and employees connect a lot more with stories in general than just input and output information.

(12:55): Now, those of us who liked data a lot wants to see that, which is why you add that chart at the end for it. But you want to give employees a different way to understand it. The other thing you can do with that, you can create short videos instead of having it just in text, create a video for a scenario or an audio for this scenario. Then you're having a lot of different ways for that employee to actually understand the information and the modeling, and then use that as part of their decision making to choose which plan or option is best for them. Now, when it comes to replacing things like Alex or Jellyvision you can absolutely create your own overview of your benefits of what it is of bite sized videos, to understand benefit terms and options. Now, with those big ones, they are still off the shelf.

(13:50): So they customize the plans, but it's not customized as far as like, Oh, I want to know more about this for me specifically. And so you can have that same result. You can still have the overview of options through an animated video that you create through bite sized videos about each one, you can definitely create a similar experience. You can gamify it as well, just like Alex says without six figures spent. So really consider that if you are into and seen results about that type of information and experience, you can recreate it yourself. And then finally for this one, I want to talk about virtual benefits. Fair. So like replacing it On24 now on 24 benefits fairs, I I'm a mixed about them. To be honest. I think their platform for webinars is pretty cool except really expensive, but the actual benefit, fair solution that they have to me, it's kind of clunky.

(14:50): It doesn't feel natural and it, it's not very helpful to me. That's my own personal experience. You're the way you set yours up, though. It may be really helpful. It may be awesome. So I just want to say like, you know, if it's working for you, I'll let it work. But for a lot of you, that spend seems extra, especially right now. I know when they give you an alternative to that, which is you can totally create your own virtual benefits, fair with all of the relevant information and details. That's really easy to find and process and have it hosted on your microsite. Now you can do it a few different ways. You can have it sort of look and feel like, you know, here is a video or like click this thing right here. I'm using a little plus sign or a button like a bullet, a click this thing right here to learn more and up pops a video about that benefit option.

(15:42): And maybe it's even somebody from the company or is that medical benefits overview or what have you, but you can create that in one location on your microsite in it. If you don't want to be so interactive, you can create a benefits for virtual fare by having information about each benefit in one location on the site. So again, you can use like a little plus sign or a bullet point or an arrow or whatever works, they click it and it pops open whether in a pop up or a drop down or a new page, whatever works for you, all of the relevant information for that specific product for that specific solution. So you're still able to get the information together. It is a very different look and feel than what on 24 does, because you sort of navigate through a virtual benefits. Fair. Like, so you're going from booth to booth, which I don't know, like it's all preference, right?

(16:37): But this is another option that you can create a benefits fair without it being a lot of money. The whole point of the fair is people can ask questions, they get information and you can all set that up on your own microsite without an issue. And then finally, the fourth way that you can improve OE and the OE experience on a budget is that I want you to really refresh your communication plan and approach. So at a high level, incorporate many different communication channels and vehicles, just email, just mailing, home, just PDFs. What have you, it's not enough. Try some new things, try some texts, try some videos, try some audios try, you know, a combination of things, try some FAQ forums. Like there's a whole bunch of things. And you can listen to the rethink HR episode, number 14, for some more specifics, but a high level incorporate different channels of communication.

(17:42): The other hot tip here, friends, each message that you send out, whether it's an email or video or whatever that communication message is. You have to include one and only one single call to action. Now I always get the question, like, what if there isn't a call to action? Like what, what do I do then? And my response is going to always be, you do not send the communication. We don't send fluff in HR anymore. We only send action oriented information and detailed communications. Now, if you need to provide an update, cool, but the call to action is click here to learn more. And there's more information about the update. Okay? So if there isn't a call to action, you don't send the communication. The other thing to remember, it's one single call to action. So we're not piling on a series of action steps.

(18:37): We are sticking to one next thing we need them to do. And then once they do that, we're going to send them another communication about the next thing we need them to do. And the cool thing is, is if you combine some of the things we've talked about already, if you, for example, have a microsite, your call to action is standard, and it becomes a known brand. You go to, Hey, you need to learn more, go to the microsite on this page, or go to the microsite or go to the microsite, click this link there. So you're being very clear and specific with one call to action. And I want to remind you quickly why we do one call to action. First benefits are incredibly important to your employees and because they are so important, they are going to be scared that they aren't going to follow directions or miss an important step.

(19:29): And it's worse than when we add on a communication that has eight different steps or links or go here. Then once you learn, go here to ask questions, go here to enroll, and then go here to confirm, like all the things that I have seen, a lot of HR professionals and those benefit administrators I mentioned before, do wrong. It is, it's scary for your employees to think they're going to miss a step. So what do they do? They start the first step. They forget to come back to that email or they open the guy, take the first action and don't open it again. And so they reach out to HR with questions, which isn't good for you or your time. And it's probably pretty frustrating. So instead we want to think of leading them through a step by step process, even though the steps are the same in general, we don't want to throw them all at our employees at the same time.

(20:23): We want to lead them through and get them complete from one, two, one, two, one two, one next, next, next, next. So that they don't feel confused that they don't have. We don't have to rely on them to go back to the communication to understand what the next step is. We can flow them through. And we, and that is why one call to action is important. Now, your quick responses, but Melissa, you're going to communicate more to them or send more emails. And my answer is yes, you may. And that is okay. Don't live in this delusional state. That more emails mean less action. It just means you've been sending a really bad emails, so more on that soon, but for now, hopefully that helps you take a fresh look at your O your overall experience for open enrollment and how you can not only save money, but provide a better employee experience for your employees during a super critical process.

(21:26): This podcast is brought to you by better microsites with your HR budgets being cut, and you being on the hunt for new ways to do more with less money. Why not consider a total rewards or benefits microsite this microsite not only increases your employee experience, but also delivers increased value at half the cost. We all know that your off the shelf benefit administration website is extremely user unfriendly, lapping, customization, easy to find information and a crazy fire wall while most still also are lacking this search function and you're paying a lot of money for it. So instead consider a microsite from better, better micro-sites, or a hundred percent designed based on what your employees need to know your branding and your information details, improving the speed at which they can find important benefit information while also connecting seamlessly with your enrollment provider. So learn more about better microsites at bettHR.com/microsites that's B E T T hr.com/microsites. Thank you so much for tuning in for this episode of the rethink HR podcast. For more information, including the show notes and resources, please go to RethinkHRpodcast.com/15.

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